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Johnson County seniors wary of federal cuts

BY CHASTITY DILLARD | SEPTEMBER 20, 2011 7:20 AM

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Though budget cuts are needed, policymakers should consider the effect cuts could have on certain demographics, Johnson County senior citizens told officials Monday.

Sponsored by the Johnson County Task Force on Aging and AARP, more than 30 individuals gave input on reducing national debt to leaders.

One attendee, Robert George, said the U.S. government should focus more on its own citizens in order to reduce the deficit and less on supporting other countries.

"I would say close the door and take care of ourselves first," he said. "There's poverty in our own country."

Mike Owen, an assistant director of the Iowa Policy Project, a nonpartisan research agency, said maintaining a concentrated effort on balanced spending is key.

What's important is "emphasizing a balanced approach because we have not had that balanced approach in so many years," he said.

He said the federal government funds 53 percent of its spending from borrowing — creating the deficit cycle.

"This is not a time to be exacerbating [the situation]," Owen said. "It's not sustainable. At the same time, we are seeing a [destroyed] fiscal system, income inequality rising and poverty growth."
Johnson County Supervisor Rod Sullivan said potential cuts could affect the area.

"Johnson County is extremely dependent on federal spending," he said. "Federal spending is an immense source to the economy."

There are lots of retiree and Medicaid dollars flowing into the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics alongside other federal dollars being used in the area, he noted.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2008, the county had $1,059,651 in federal support from a variety of sources.

"I'm concerned when people start talking about big austerity measures, that this can have a disproportionate effect on Johnson County," Sullivan said.

Joe Hand, the communications director for Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, said the congressman remains devoted to keeping the debt burden from being placed on the backs of the middle class.

"There definitely needs to be cuts to balance the budget, but there also needs to be ways to raise revenue so all pay their fair share," he said.

Following the summit, attendees voted on what incentives they thought the government should cut or reduce spending.

Their input will aid policymakers as they vote on cuts.

"They're going to know that people are disgusted with the way that the political system is being run now," George said following the meeting. "That this is more than being a Democrat or Republican. It is a problem that we have to share and straighten out."


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